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Asia is an expansive region packed with a diverse array of exciting food experiences. From the sultry flavors of Thailand to the exquisite creations found in Japan, we have partnered with Intrepid Travel to bring you 11 can’t-miss eating adventures around Asia.
Travel to Hoi An, one of the top foodie destinations in Vietnam, and discover how to make banh xeo, one of the country’s most celebrated dishes. This tasty crepe is a marriage of French and Vietnamese cooking methods. The rice flour batter is spread paper-thin on an iron pan and cooked until crisp and light. It’s filled with shrimp and a medley of fresh bean sprouts and herbs. This is a dish that takes skill and dexterity, but when you learn the art of cooking it from a local expert, you can’t go wrong.
There is nothing better than rising at the crack of dawn, dodging through Ho Chi Minh’s traffic, and settling in on a short stool at a roadside food stall for a taste of broken rice and pork chops. The best vendors marinate their pork overnight, so it’s tender and flavorful. They then grill it over open coals, filling the streets with a mouthwatering smell and luring in early risers. Served with sticky broken rice, pickled vegetables, and usually an egg, this is one of the best ways to start your morning.
Taiwan is renowned for its snack culture, and there’s no better place to sample the full range of delicacies than at the Ningxia Night Market. Although this is not the largest night market in the city, it is one of the most popular among locals, and you can bet the flavors are true to tradition. When the sun sets, wander through the many rows of lighted stalls, and dive into specialities such as oyster omelettes, deep-fried taro balls filled with salted egg yolk, and roasted sausage stuffed inside glutinous rice.
Takayama in Gifu prefecture is at the heart of Japanese culinary history. The region is famous for producing high-altitude vegetables, renowned sake, Hida beef, and many other delicacies. The morning markets, which open at 6 a.m., date back more than 300 years, and local farmers put out fascinating displays. Visitors will find beautiful seasonal produce, unique local pickles, bags of homemade miso wrapped in leaves, preserved fish, soy bean candies, and more.
The art of kaiseki cuisine, a seasonal meal in which diners give themselves over to the whims of the chef, is growing in popularity around the globe and is noted in fine-dining circles for its finesse and elegance. In Kyoto, diners will find a similar tradition called obanzai ryori, in which at least half of the ingredients in a meal must be sourced solely from in and around Kyoto. The ancient obanzai meal is unpretentious and genuine and embodies the ideas of balance, hospitality, and minimizing waste. It’s a must-have experience in Kyoto.
South Koreans love their beer, and light lagers are a constant table companion to chicken wings, kimbap, and other delicious snacks. Recently, many have started branching out from light lagers, and some local entrepreneurs are creating their own delicious brews. Busan boasts a particularly extensive range of brewpubs. Discover local IPAs, such as Doljanchi, which is crafted with special yeasts, locally produced sour beers, and many others. Pair the brews with delicious snacks that will carry you through the night.
It’s fitting that a city considered among the best places in Korea to sample bibimbap hosts one of the biggest celebrations commemorating this simple, delicious dish. Held each year in October in Jeonju, the festivities include cultural performances, tours, and plenty of opportunities to sample the celebrated dish. The denouement is the preparation of a giant bibimbap that is large enough to serve 400.
Real Peking duck, sampled in an authentic kaoyadian (roast duck restaurant) in the city of its moniker is an experience that is hard to beat. This dish has been on imperial menus since the 13th century in Beijing. The ducks are raised specifically for this purpose, and preparation includes stuffing them with spices and hanging them in a special earthen oven. Here, they are roasted by a fire using wood from fruit trees until the skin is crisp and crackling, and it’s then carved at the table. The mixture of delicate skin and dark tender meat makes for a feast that proves not all poultry is created equal.
Chengdu chefs are known for creating epic dishes that use a heady mixture of various of chili peppers (dried, pickled, crushed or in paste form) plus special numbing Sichuan peppers (huajiao) that make the lips tingle and the tongue sing. Dig into delicious renditions of mapo tofu, dan dan noodles, bullfrog with chili peppers, and more.
Thai boat noodles are another popular dish best sampled in its city of origin. Ayutthaya was originally founded around 1350 and offers streets rich in history, as well as shops hawking this incredible specialty. Originally vendors would ride little sampans through the rivers while serving the dish, but you can still enjoy the rich pork broth, roasted meat, crackling, and rice noodles served from the comfort of dry land.
The Kampot pepper has grown in Cambodia for centuries and is considered among the world’s finest. Noted for its intensely floral bouquet and delicate flavor, this amazing peppercorn was cultivated as early as the 13th century, but production exploded during the French protectorate over the country. Production was almost completely destroyed during the Khmer Rouge period, but today the plantations are considered important symbols of Cambodian regeneration.
For more information on foodie tours, check out Intrepid Travel.